beneath the early morning sun.
“I didn’t think you ever came out of your house ,” I replied and then wanted to kick myself.
He lifted his eyebrows. “You’ve been watching for me?”
I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment. Idiot , I told myself. “Of course not,” I snapped. “I was just noticing how peaceful the last couple days had been and the fact that you weren’t in them.”
“I’m out here every morning to surf. You’ve just not noticed me until today.”
“So you’ve been watching me?” I said, smug.
He grinned and didn’t bother to deny it. My entire body flushed. The fact that he watched me meant he liked what he saw… right?
“That hat of yours is like a neon sign. It’s kind of hard not to notice.”
So much for thinking he might like the way I looked. Bummer . Yes, I know. I said I wasn’t going to worry about a guy. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want him to enjoy the way I looked.
“It’s not that bright,” I muttered and looked away, back into the water. Surprisingly, the conch shell was still there, the water parting over it as it moved.
“Hold this,” I said and pushed the hat containing all my shells into his arms.
“Would love to,” he said dryly as I waded back into the water to retrieve the shell. I’d never found a whole conch before and I really wanted to get it.
The shell was partially buried in the wet sand, which was the reason it hadn’t washed away yet. Because the bottom was open, it acted like a suction cup against the packed wet sand. Bending at the waist, I plunged both my hands into the cool, brackish water and tugged. It didn’t lift on my first try, and of course, another wave crashed right where I was standing. This time I braced myself and didn’t fall over, but I did stand there for a long moment waiting for some of the water to drain away. As it did, the surf rushed around my arms and legs, spraying me with water drops.
The sensation of rushing water was interrupted.
A sharp, stabbing pain followed by an intense burning, kind of like my arm was on fire, made me cry out. I jerked back to get away from whatever was hurting me, and I caught a glimpse of a large jellyfish being tugged away by a wave.
I stumbled backward, the pain fairly intense , as my brain processed the fact I was just stung by the creature.
Just as I was about to fall, a pair of warm, solid arms wrapped around me from behind. I took immediate advantage of his nearness and leaned against him, giving all my weight for him to support.
“What happened?” Gavin said against my ear.
“I think a jellyfish just stung me,” I said, my voice low and strained. The burning and stinging was very intense . It hurt a lot more than I thought a sting like this would.
“Only you would find an angry jellyfish,” he rumbled.
“Hey—” I started to argue, but the words fell away. I was in pain, damn it.
“Where did it get you?”
I raised my arm to inspect the spot where it burned. There was a large, bright-red welt and a rash spreading down around my wrist. In the center of the reddest area, something was sticking out. I freaked out and began waving my arm. “Get it off!” I screeched. “Get it off me!”
“Talie,” he said firmly, interrupting my meltdown. How could he be so calm? “It’s the tentacle. It stuck to your skin when he got you.”
“I don’t want it there.”
He chuckled. “I got that.”
I started at it with my fingers to yank that sucker out, but he stopped me. “That’s just going to hurt worse.”
I glared at him. Gavin tucked my hat with the shells in it under his arm and then reached for me. He lifted me easily, swung me up into his arms and cradled me against his chest.
“What the hell are you doing?” I demanded.
Secretly, I freaking loved the feeling of him carrying me as if I weighed nothing at all.
“Do you know first aid for a jellyfish sting?” He stared down at me. The deep azure penetrated me down to my very core.